A proper audio interface is one of the most important pieces of gear in any computer-based recording studio. Your interface pipes all of your audio signals in and out of your computer.

It’s a part of every signal and sound you make and, therefore, is a crucial choice when setting up to record.

Are all interfaces created equally? Absolutely not.

They all have their own particulars, especially when it comes to getting killer guitar sounds, and should be investigated thoroughly.

Today, we are meeting here to discuss what we feel are the best sounding audio interfaces for guitar recording. Ready to dive in?

Comparison Table of Audio Interfaces

Product
Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt 3 Audio...
Audio Conversion
24 bit/192 kHz
Product
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio...
Audio Conversion
24 bit/192 kHz
Product
AXE I/O 2-channel audio interface with guitar tone...
Audio Conversion
24 bit/192 kHz

UAD Arrow

Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt 3 Audio...

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The UAD Arrow is, hands down, the best audio interface for guitar in its class. It’s the first Thunderbolt 3-powered desktop interface for both Windows and Mac.

It’s built around two of UAD’s Unison microphone preamps and highly-regarded audio converters descended from the company’s iconic Apollo interfaces and it delivers the most compelling sound in its price range.

It also comes loaded with a set of onboard UAD plug-ins that make getting album-worthy results a snap.

With its Unison technology and built-in UAD-2 SOLO Core processor, you can record through classic pieces of kit including the 610 Tube Preamp, LA-2A and 1176 compressors, and a genuine Marshall Plexi.

Did I mention that you can do all of this with almost no latency regardless of your audio buffer setting? Well, you can. Just thinking about adding one of these to my rig sets my heart aflutter.

Arrow’s proprietary Unison technology is the key to all of this magic. The integration of hardware and software in the Arrow is unlike anything else on the market.

All you have to do is throw a Unison preamp plug-in onto your mic input via Arrow’s Console software and you’re ready to get down with preamp models from API and Neve, amp emulations from Marshall and Fender, and a whole lot more.

Not only do you get the sounds of these legendary devices but they come complete with their signature impedances, gain stage “sweet spots,” and circuit behaviors. This means that Arrow feels like a real amp when you play through it.

What’s even more happening is that the SOLO Core processor takes the burden off of your computer. All of this happens before your signal even hits your CPU. This is why latency is a non-issue when using Arrow.

Any guitar player seeking a new interface to bring their tones to the world needs to give Arrow a serious look and listen.

PROS:

  • Near-zero latency. In fact, you probably won’t feel any latency under your fingers.
  • Full suite of onboard plug-ins.
  • Award-winning preamps.
  • Built-in UAD-2 SOLO Core processor to give you that real tube amp feel.
  • Everything is included to record killer guitar sounds, plug in and start recording.

CONS:

  • Solo core processor can only handle 2-3 UAD plugins at once. So if you need more processing power, check out Twin MKII DUO or MKII QUAD instead.
  • On-off switch would be nice!
  • Thunderbolt 3 can cause connectivity issues with older computers.
Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt 3 Audio...
  • Desktop 2x4 Thunderbolt 3-powered audio interface with class-leading 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
  • Unison mic preamp and guitar amp emulations from Neve , API , Manley , Marshall, Fender , and more.
  • Real-time UAD processing allows near-zero latency tracking with classic UAD plug-in effects, regardless of...

See how it sounds

Pete Thorn's Top UAD-2 Guitar Tones, Tone #7 Marshall/Softube Amps

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio...

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Focusrite is considered by many to be THE interface company and its Scarlett series are the best-selling audio interfaces in the world. One look at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and it’s easy to understand why.

The 2i2 is a USB-powered unit featuring two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of balanced gain on tap as well as a switchable Air Mode that provides a brighter, more open sound to your vocal and acoustic guitar tracks.

This third generation unit also packs two newly-designed instrument inputs formulated to take seriously hot guitar pickups with ease. Best-in-class high-level conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit and super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time also make this an attractive and useful piece for any home or project studio.

Other features include 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs for your studio monitors and one headphone output with gain control. 

USB interfaces are still very popular for their combination of performance, compatibility, and price and this is pretty much the best one ever made. Believe me, we’ve all made far worse choices than adding a Focusrite to our studios.

It comes complete with a ton of cool software, too, including Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, a 3-month Splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available by download upon purchase and registration.

There’s even a Quick Start tool to get you recording at once. This is a great value, particularly for home recordists. You need this. 

PROS:

  • Huge bang for the buck!
  • USB-powered for easy connectivity and portability!
  • It’s a Focusrite!
  • The 3rd generation now includes the Air feature which were only included in the higher-price Focusrite units.

CONS:

  • Only two inputs. Not suitable for tracking a full band
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio...
  • Exclusive to this Bundle: Waves Musicians 2 ($99 Value) with 6 Indispensable Audio Plugins:Renaissance...
  • Exclusive to this Bundle: iZotope Mobius Filter ($49 Value) Create fresh filter effects for any genre
  • Two of the best performing Scarlett mic preamps the range has ever heard – now with Air – for miking up...

See how it sounds

Focusrite // Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen – Overview feat. Sam Bell

AXE I/O

AXE I/O 2-channel audio interface with guitar tone...

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IK Multimedia’s AXE I/O 2-channel audio interface is a wonderful device aimed directly at you, the recording guitarist. In many ways, it’s the interface guitar players have longed for for many years.

The AXE is a fully-pro 2 in/5 out unit designed first and foremost for tracking guitars faster, better, and more simply than ever before. It’s a 24-bit, 192 kHz audio interface with 2 mic preamps and 2 instrument inputs. It sports an Active/Passive pickup selector for optimal gain levels with any guitar, a Z-Tone adjustable impedance control to pull more tones from your instruments, and PURE and JFET instrument input channels to keep your sound supremely clean or add subtle saturation.

It also has a low-noise Amp Out for easy reamping without any additional direct boxes or splitters required. When you register your AXE, you will even receive a huge software bundle with AmpliTube 4 Deluxe, Ableton Live 10 Lite and 10 T-RackS mixing plug-ins. 

It’s not outrageous to call the AXE I/O a game-changing piece of kit, especially for those new to recording and for smaller project studios. It speeds up the creative process for us guitar types and offers unparalleled reamping capabilities most players will find tonally exciting. Give this one a serious go and immediately elevate your whole operation. 

PROS:

  • Built-in tuner!
  • Amplitude 4 Deluxe costs almost as much as the AXE I/O when bought separately!
  • Amp Out feature and reamping capabilities blow away anything in its class!
  • High build quality!
  • Great preamps!
  • Z-tone and sharp/passive buttons gives you tons of tone options

CONS:

  • You might feel a bit of a delay under your fingers. We tested it with the lowest sample rates and different settings, but couldn’t quite get near zero latency.
  • Amplitude 4 has a bit of a learning curve however, it has tons of features and endless amount of tone options. Love or hate?
  • Name-brand amp models such as Mesa and Fender must be purchased separately.
AXE I/O 2-channel audio interface with guitar tone...
  • A professional 2 in/5 out audio interface and controller
  • 3 different preamp circuits to choose from
  • Amp output for easy re-amping

See how it sounds:

IK Multimedia AXE I/O – The Audio Interface for guitarists

PreSonus AudioBox

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PreSonus is another company that’s well-known and respected among recording musicians for consistently making outstanding products.

The PreSonus AudioBox USB Interface is yet another of them. It’s a great piece to consider for anyone recording or podcasting on a tight budget and handles MIDI chores as well as audio.

It is a small, easy-to-use recording solution that is well-suited for anyone for whom portability is a concern. Throw one of these in your laptop case and you’re good to go. It’s built like a tank, too, so you know it’ll work when you finally do arrive.

The AudioBox is compatible with just about any Mac or Windows machine under the sun, so no worries about cross-platform temper tantrums here. That, alone, is a selling point for many guitarists, as we tend to like things that just plug in and play.

It has the expected two audio inputs connected to Class A mic preamps, two audio outs, plus an ultra-loud headphone jack perfect for noisy tracking environments.

You get software, too, that being PreSonus’ Studio One 3 Artist DAW software for Mac and Windows.

An AudioBox is just about the easiest way to get started with computer recording. What are you waiting for?

PROS:

  • Compatible with most Mac and Windows computers!
  • Headphone jack is louder than most!
  • Small and easy to carry around.

CONS:

  • Tight control spacing for big hands.

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Video review

PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 Review / Test / Explained

Last update on 2019-11-11 / Source: Amazon

6 COMMENTS

    • I’ve heard that the 2i2 1st gen doesn’t work as well with guitars as 2nd gen, but I don’t know what those claims are relating to.

  1. i wonder how the clarett pre2 USB comapres to the scarlett 2i2 ? is the price difference really justified ? i found mixed reviews (not a lot of them). my only use is practuce guitare with Bias FX and amplitube.

    • Thanks for your comment! Clarett preamps has a bit more character and the difference can be heard if you record though mics. Especially on vocals. For practicing with amp emulators, you probably won’t notice any difference. So i would just stick with Scarlett.

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