Six Travel-Friendly USB Audio Interfaces

0Share

Whether you record demo tracks on the road, produce podcasts at home, or collaborate with other artists in random locations, having a travel-friendly audio interface is key to staying versatile in your work. An ideal interface would be small enough to fit in a backpack, laptop bag, or satchel while supporting multiple types of I/O and USB powering. Seriously, the last thing you need is to have your ideas vanish whilst frantically searching for a free AC power outlet. Thankfully, your options are plentiful in number, and I’d like to bring your to attention some USB-powered gems from Focusrite, Tascam, Audient, iConnectivity, Zoom, and Arturia.

Let’s start with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, a delightful little Mac-/Windows-compatible device with a red metal chassis measuring approximately 1.9 x 6.9 x 4.5" (H x W x D). It provides two inputs and two outputs at up to 24-bit / 192 kHz for recording and playback resolution without compromise. Its input channels feature XLR-1/4" combo jacks that accommodate mic-, line-, or instrument-level signals, as well as independent gain knobs with ring LEDs, line/instrument switches, and 48V phantom power—dynamic or condenser mics, keyboards, guitars, or drum machines are handled with ease. Hook up headphones to the front-panel 1/4" port, and active monitors to the 1/4" jacks on the rear; separate volume controls are provided for the headphone and monitor outputs. It also boasts low round-trip latency, and selectable direct monitoring for zero-latency monitoring while recording. A generous bonus is the software bundle, which includes the Addictive Keys virtual keyboard instrument from XLN Audio, a 2GB royalty-free sample library from Loopmasters, Ableton Live Lite and Avid Pro Tools First DAWs, Focusrite’s Red 2 compressor and Red 3 EQ plug-ins, and reverb, delay, distortion, and mastering plug-ins from Softube; loads of tools perfect for polishing mixes.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface

Just a bit taller and about an inch narrower than the Scarlett 2i2 is the Tascam US-1x2. This metal-bodied interface has an angled design for ergonomic access to controls, and works with Mac and Windows computers via USB power (or with iOS devices when powered by an optional AC adapter). Capture an unbalanced stereo line input connected to the rear-panel RCA jacks, or record sources through the front-panel XLR mic input (with switchable phantom power) and 1/4" line/instrument input. Either way, the low-noise, Ultra-HDDA preamps feed internal converters operating at up to 24-bit / 96 kHz resolution. Like the Scarlett 2i2, the US-1x2 offers line and headphone outputs with separate volume controls, and selectable direct monitoring. In case you don’t already have a DAW installed on your computer, the US-1x2 comes with Cubase LE, an advanced digital audio workstation that handles music production tasks from start to finish.

Tascam US-1X2 1 In 2 Out USB Audio Interface

The Audient iD14 is yet another metal-bodied model in the same size class as the previously mentioned interfaces. As you might expect, it does share some common ground with them. It has two analog inputs and outputs, switchable phantom power, and independently adjustable input gain and monitor/headphone output levels. However, Audient chose to make the iD14’s electronics different in a few key places. It boasts two Class-A mic preamps, a harmonically rich JFET direct input, and 24-bit / 96 kHz Burr Brown converters to deliver the same sonic quality found in high-end Audient studio hardware. If you need to record more than two inputs at a time, snag an eight-channel external mic preamp equipped with an ADAT output, then connect it to the iD14’s optical input port to lay down up to 10 simultaneous tracks! Streamline DAW operations by using the iD14’s volume encoder in ScrollControl mode, which allows the knob to adjust DAW functions, plug-in parameters, the Audient mixer app, or anywhere your mouse pointer is hovering!

Audient iD14 High Performance USB Audio Interface

Do you find yourself bouncing between two computers (or between one computer and an iPad)? If so, the iConnectivity iConnectAUDIO2+ presents a welcome solution. Thanks to multiple USB ports and some software wizardry, this interface gives you configurable paths for routing audio and MIDI from one device to another. It’s outfitted with two XLR-1/4" mic/line/instrument combo inputs, three independent pairs of stereo outputs (four balanced 1/4" TRS mono outputs and an unbalanced 1/4" stereo headphone out), traditional 5-pin MIDI I/O, and 24-bit / 96 kHz converters. With a capacitive touch display and single control knob, level adjustments are simple and smooth. As if that weren’t enough, iConnectivity has bundled Ableton Live Lite and a bunch of Big Fish Audio samples and loops to aid your creative endeavors.

iConnectivity iConnectAudio 2+ USB Audio and MIDI Interface

Another option is the Zoom U-44, a handheld 4-in / 4-out interface that’s compatible with Mac/Windows computers (and iPads if you power the U-44 via two AA batteries or an AC adapter). It supports sample rates up to 96 kHz and has a 10-pin Zoom connector that allows it to accept any of the six Zoom input capsules (available separately) such as X/Y, Mid-Side, and Shotgun. With two XLR-1/4" combo inputs and a stereo S/PDIF input (via coaxial or optical), the U-44 handles dynamic/condenser mics, instruments, line-level signals, and digital feeds. The stereo main outputs and headphone jack have independent level controls, adjustable direct monitor mix, and separate mute buttons. Adding to the U-44’s capable I/O are MIDI input and output ports, coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs, and two stereo RCA outs. Use the U-44 as a USB audio interface, or run it as a battery-powered stand-alone mixer and AD-DA converter!

Zoom U-44 Handy 4-In/4-Out Audio Interface

Now, I’d like to introduce the massively cool, yet small Arturia AudioFuse. This 5 x 5 x 2.6" aluminum box manages to squeeze in 14 inputs, 14 outputs, and a 3-port USB hub! You can record mics, instruments, or line-level devices through the two XLR-1/4" combo inputs—each has selectable phantom power, polarity, and a -20 dB pad—at up to 24-bit / 192 kHz. Inputs 3-4 can be sourced from the two 1/4" TRS inputs or the stereo phono input (complete with ground connection and RIAA phono preamp), plus S/PDIF coaxial and ADAT optical inputs allow you to pipe in stereo or 8-channel digital streams. It also has two 1/4" inserts and MIDI I/O for integration of external analog and MIDI hardware. The AudioFuse features a robust monitor section with easy A/B switching between two sets of speaker outputs, a large volume control, and switches for mono, mute, and dim. For headphones, it offers two independent mixes, each with a mono/stereo button, a selectable source, a level control, and 1/4" and 3.5mm outputs. There’s even a talkback switch that routes audio from a built-in microphone out to the headphones. The AudioFuse is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux computers, and iOS/Android mobile devices. Its four power modes and removable protective cover make it ready for all sorts of situations!

Arturia AudioFuse 14x14 Audio Interface

Stop by the B&H SuperStore or visit our website to learn more about these interfaces and others, and feel welcome to share your favorite portable audio interfaces in the Comments section!

Close

Close

Close