We get a lot of audio interfaces to try out with Pro Tools, from basic budget audio interfaces to those costing several thousand pounds aimed at the semi-pro and professional market. A few days ago we were discussing amongst the team which audio interfaces we would recommend if someone asked us what we used as our Pro Tools interface. In many cases, members of the team own these interfaces. These are the 10 audio interfaces we think you should check out. They are in no particular order
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
When Universal Audio announced the Apollo it caused quite a stir offering a high quality, feature packed 19" 1U audio interface which meant it was possible to use effects while tracking either to monitor the effects or print them. however, for some, the dream of an Apollo was out of reach. With the launch of the UA Apollo Twin everything changed, offering the same core features of the 19" Apollo with a reduced I/O but giving more people the chance to own an Apollo. When we were given a sneak peak at Pro Tools Expert, we knew it would be popular with Russ Hughes asking the UA team if they had 'ordered their yachts.' We were not wrong. The UA Apollo Twin has proved to be a hugely popular audio interface and for a good reason. Portable, feature-packed and best of all great sounding. The UA Apollo Twin takes some beating. As testimony to this nearly, all the Pro Tools Expert team own an Apollo Twin either as their primary or secondary audio interface for Pro Tools. Universal Audio Apollo Twin review
There is also a newer Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII - read the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII review here
RME Fireface 802
Pro Tool Windows specialist Alan Sallabank was insistent that the RME Fireface 802 should be on our list. He said "The RME has to be in there. They're the quiet, reliable workhorses that power thousands of studios, not just with interfaces but also their converters (MADI, etc.). The ARC is a beautiful piece of engineering.." Backed up by James Ivey who described the RME Fireface 802 as "a killer interface."
RME say "built on the legendary Fireface 800. 60 channels of audio, high-end microphone preamps, reference class converters, a complete effects section and operation at up to 192 kHz are the base for many more features:
Ultra-low latency operation with USB or FireWire, combined with the legendary RME driver stability and maintenance. Active jitter suppression, individually switchable reference levels for all inputs and outputs, full stand-alone functionality, RME’s unique DIGICheck metering and analysis toolbox, and identical operation on Windows PC and Mac.
Universal Audio Apollo (Black face) Range.
Already featured in our list the UA Apollo range has quickly grown to be the choice of many, you'll find plenty of the original silver faced UA Apollo interfaces gracing the racks of studios. However, the newer UA Apollo 'black face' range of audio interfaces offer even better sound by improved A/D and D/A conversion along with a greater range of versions to give more flexible I/O routing.
Improvements have also been made to the accompanying Console software and firmware giving extra features such as cascading of multiple Apollo interfaces and star clocking via Thunderbolt. Again several of the team own UA Apollos both silver and black face versions. Universal Audio Apollo 8 and Apollo 8P review
Focusrite Red 4 Pre
It's fair to say that James is our go-to guy when it comes to interfaces at the moment. His studio is overflowing great stuff. However, the new Focusrite Red 4 Pre is one interface that is going to be staying. The Focusrite Red 4 Pre is capable of running as the HD interface for your Pro Tools HD, HDX or HD Native system. It can connect to your Mac via ~Thunderbolt for next to zero latency I/O and it gets the user into the world of Dante for audio over IP connectivity. The four built-in Clarett style Red Evolution mic pre-amps sound fantastic, in Focusrite's words: "This is the best interface we have ever built." Check out part 1 of James' review of the Focusrite Red 4 Pre.
MOTU Ultralite AVB
Julian, our Audio-Over-IP specialist, wanted this on the list, as one of the new breed of audio interfaces offering an alternative connection protocol, in this case, AVB and the very flexible control software which rather than being an application is a web page served onto the network by the hardware itself. The MOTU Ultralite AVB is the latest in MOTU's popular, award-winning UltraLite interface series; the UltraLite AVB is an 18-input, 18-output audio interface with DSP mixing, wi-fi control, AVB audio networking and best-in-class analog audio quality for on-the-go mobile audio recording. MOTU Ultralite AVB review
Small can indeed be mighty, and that can be said of the Audient iD22 100%. Firstly this unit is built like a tank. All metal construction means it is built for the road. It also has some nice features which make it ideal as a centerpiece for a smaller home studio. The 2 inbuilt mic pres are the same as you would find in Audient's range of consoles and ASP 008, 880 and 800 multi-channel mic pres and with the bonus of ADAT I/O the iD22 is capable of recording ten channels at the same time. If you are on the lookout for a mobile interface or even something smaller for a second rig, this could be a perfect choice. Audient iD22 review.
Antelope Orion Studio
Relatively new kids on the interface block are Antelope, but as a company, they have been around a long time and are better known for their studio master clocks and super high-end A/D converters. They have used their vast knowledge in these fields to create a range of interfaces that not only sound amazing but also feature their high-end clocking technology. The Antelope Orion Studio is one the latest in the family, and it is a powerhouse of a unit. Antelope have apparently looked at the competition and looked at what is good and what needs improving and acted on it. The Studio have 12 built in class A mic pres. Couple that with 16 I/O over ADAT and both Thunderbolt and USB connectivity for Windows and Mac this is a winner. But the real advance that Antelope have made is in the Orion Studio app for Mac and PC that runs the 1U hardware unit. You can route any signal to any internal or external I/O or in build effect. You can then if you choose track with and without effects to different DAW channels. This in our opinion make the Orion Studio the most flexible interface on the market at the moment. Antelope Orion Studio review
Love it or hate it Thunderbolt is rapidly becoming a choice for manufacturers of audio interface, the Clarett range by Focusrite has seen them embrace this technology with both hands (or rack ears). The Clarett 8 Pre with James reviewed just after it launched at NAMM 2015 and the others in the range are fantastic sounding interfaces offering different amounts of I/O depending on your need or want. The two main features of the Clarett range is the super low roundtrip latency allowing the user to have plug-ins running as you track your session and the beautiful, clean sounding Clarett mic pre with its Air setting to add sparkle and shine to your tracks. Check out the Focusrite Clarett 8 Pre review here.
Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt
The Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt is a feature packed 1u high 19" audio interface that features a comprehensive set of features and multiple connection options including ADAT. Wordclock and D-Sub are giving maximum flexibility. That is just where it starts because the preamps sound fantastic and the round-trip-latency is so low only a native-interface-denier would question its suitability for use in a professional Pro Tools studio. Russ uses this as the core to his recording set-up and loves the sound and speed of the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt. Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt review
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Perhaps the least expensive interface in our list but by no means one to ignore. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is perhaps the best value audio interface on the market right now. It offers 2 Focusrite channels giving a great sound and includes a veritable bundle of software from both Focusrite and Softube making it a steal at a street price of less than £100.
So as you can see, there's never been more variety for those looking for a Pro Tools interface, many of the interfaces shown above are owned by members of our team, and you can see that the variety of audio interfaces shown means there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Is your audio interface on the list or have we missed one you think should be here?