7 Best Low Latency Audio Interfaces [2023] with Buyer’s Guide

Low latency audio interfaces are the heart of any modern recording setup. Whether you want to record a full band in your home studio or just have a way to get your own demos online to share with your bandmates, an interface is a key piece of gear for any guitarist in 2021.

Of course, as with any digital recording, you want to get something with as low latency as possible to avoid the feeling of playing behind the music, or experiencing a phantom slapback delay effect. Every interface on this list has latency under 7ms, which is roughly the amount of time it takes sound from a guitar amp 7 feet away to reach your ears.

As for me, having played guitar since back when skinny ties were popular, I’ve owned every type of home recording system from the good old cassette tape 4-track machine, right up to today’s on board processing behemoths. I’m more than familiar with the give and take of using digital means for recording guitar, and have either owned or professionally used every interface on this list.

Let’s get stuck in.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Editor's Choice
Solid State Logic SSL2+

Solid State Logic SSL2+

Features: Professional grade preamps, High-current headphone amp, Legacy 4K button

Benefits: Incredible fidelity, Analog tones on demand, Unparalleled low latency performance

10
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Best Value
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3

Features: iPad Pro compatibility, Halo clipping indicators, Direct Monitor circuit

Benefits: Intuitive setup, Ultra low latency, Bright and open recordings

8.5
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Best Budget
Mackie Onyx Artist 1-2

Mackie Onyx Artist 1-2

Features: Zero latency direct monitoring, 48v Phantom power, Bus powered

Benefits: Highly portable, Condenser mic compatible, awesome clarity and dynamic range

7
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Best Low Latency Audio Interface: Our Top 3

If you’re looking to get a starter interface to try out home recording, you can’t go wrong with Mackie’s Onyx Artist interface, which is our pick for Best Budget low latency audio Interface. While it does offer a relatively high (compared to others on this list) round trip latency of 6ms, you get a rugged metal housed interface with good quality preamps, a ton of software, and a price that allows you to comfortably dip your toe in home recording.

On the other hand, if you’re more familiar with home recording and want to step up a notch, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 offers significantly lower latency at under 3ms, excellent preamps and AD/DA converters to get a much cleaner and fuller sound, ISA mic preamp emulation which gives your recordings a bright and airy sound, as well as being an incredibly easy to use interface that’s practically plug and play – easily our choice for the Best Value low latency audio Interface.

Finally stepping up all the way to home studio level recording, the SSL2/2+ delivers forty years of audio gear expertise into a desktop-format interface with near-zero latency as 1ms, exceptional mic pres and rugged construction. All that, at an incredulous price. Plus, the 4k button gives it an analog SSL-flavor, which completely outmaneuvers the Focusrite ‘Air’. For those reasons, we honor it with the KGR Editor’s Choice for low latency audio interfaces.


Best Low Latency Audio Interface: Individual Reviews

Top Pick
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

Super low-latency, high headroom, optimized gain, and killer preamps!.

This interface is the gold standard for prosumer level users. It's fantastically simple to use, and offers studio quality recording with no perceieved lag.

Product Highlights:

  • USB 2.0 bus-powered audio interface
  • 24-bit/192kHz audio
  • Focusrite 3rd gen preamps
  • Air Mode to emulate ISA pres
  • MAC/PC Compatibility
  • Massive software and VST bundled

The 3rd gen Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (full review here) is not just a dolled-up version of the previous line. There are tangible improvements in dynamic range, max input level, and gain range. The 3rd gen also uses Type-C connections with updated drivers/software and significantly better headphone amp performance.

Focusrite’s iron grip (in this segment) relies heavily on their generous software bundles and superior preamps. The AD/DA converters, preamp gain structure, and mic preamps are top notch.

Ah, did I mention that the 3rd offers a mono and stereo summing control-switch and Air Button? The ‘Air mode’ triggers an ISA mic preamp emulation, which makes your recordings sound bright/open. It’s a good addition to the spec-list, but it feels a tad gimmicky.

Focusrite’s software bundle offers the no-frills version of Pro Tools First and Abelton Live Lite. They’ll be handy if you are a rank beginner, but they aren’t comparable to a full-featured DAW. I think the Mackie Onyx edges out the 2i2 in this regard (more on that later). 

Nevertheless, Focusrite’s bundled content is the most bountiful collection of plug-ins and loops compared to what the competition offers. They’ve also thrown in a Plugin Collective monthly giveaway subscription. It adds heaps of value to an already reasonably-priced and pleasingly low latency audio interface.

Verdict: It’s hard to go wrong with a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or the more intermediate 4i4 interface. The 3rd gen improvements have made a good thing better. Once you spend some time with it, it’s easy to see why it’s the world’s best-selling low latency audio interface. 


Best Budget
Mackie Onyx Artist 1X2

Onyx preamps, zero-latency direct monitoring at a cut-throat price.

If you're in need of a low cost, zero latency USB interface capable of recording mics, guitars and keys, this is a great choice.

Product Highlights:

  • USB 2.0 bus-powered audio interface
  • 24-bit/192kHz audio
  • Onyx preamps
  • MAC/PC Compatibility
  • Bundled with Tracktion T7 & FX plug-ins

If you are privy to the mixing console grapevine, you might have heard a good deal of praise of Mackie and Onyx preamps. Mackie has now taken a swing at the small-sized desktop interfaces with their Onyx Artist and Producer models.

The Mackie Onyx Artist is a bus-powered audio interface with 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio. It connects over USB 2.0 and is compatible with both macOS and PC/Windows. It’s the no-frills version. You’ll get a mic/instrument combo input, +48V phantom power, headphone outputs, L/R line out, and a Hi-Z switch.

The audio quality and features are excellent if you need an inexpensive low latency audio interface for recording instruments and voice. They haven’t skimped on quality to keep the price low. The potentiometers are built to last, the all-metal casing is rugged, and the sleek black styling has an industrial appeal to it.

I’d only recommend moving upstream to the Producer version if you want MIDI I/O for controllers or synths. Both versions include a software and VST bundle feature the Tracktion T7 DAW and 15+ FX plugin-ins.

Verdict: The Mackie Artist 1-2 packs a punch with its great-sounding preamps, zero-latency monitoring, a huge bundle of VST & software add-ons, and a world-class analog circuit. It won’t shatter the glass ceiling, but it’s a feature-rich product at a cutthroat price.


Editor's Choice
Solid State Logic SSL2+

The most affordable way to add an SSL to your recording workflow.

This is a serious zero-lag home recording solution that offers professional standard preamps for supreme audio quality.

Product Highlights:

  • USB 2.0 bus-powered audio interface
  • 24-bit/192kHz audio
  • Legacy 4k analog color button
  • Neutrik XLR/Jack connections
  • MAC/PC Compatibility

After having conquered the world of large mixing boards, SSL enters the digital production fray with a long-awaited and highly talked about desktop interface.

The SSL2+ format is unique because the I/Os are on the back panel and the controls + metering on the top panel. They feature Neutrik combo connectors that act as a mic/line/hi-Z input with independent +48V power. They also have MIDI In/Out, a five-pin DIN port, and a five-step LED ladder meter to track input levels.

The proprietary “Legacy 4k” circuit brightens up the sound, or as SSL puts it “color enhancement inspired by a 4000-series console“. The improvement in tone is similar to the Focusrite ‘Air’ but more useable, at least to my ears.

The software bundle includes the SSL production pack, SSL Native Vocalstrip2, Drumstip plugins, and a 6-month free subscription to other SSL Native plugin-ins. It also includes Pro Tools First and 23+ production plugins and 1.5GB of samples from Loopcloud.

Overall, the SSL2+ poses a formidable challenge to MOTU 2, Focusrite 2i2 and Audient EVO, and other segment leaders. It’s ergonomic, easy to use, and ticks all the well-established expectations from SSL hardware.

Verdict: We can only be thankful to Audiotronix for giving home studio owners a shot at the SSL heritage. SSL2+ (and SSL2, the no-frills cousin) are excellent choices in the project-studio market. It retains the SSL pedigree with well-thought-out features, high-quality performance at a competitive price. Plus, they ship with C-to-C and C-to-A cables (you hear that MOTU?).


Also Consider
Universal Audio Volt 2

This fantastic USB interface is a true market disruptor.

This is one of the hottest new USB interfaces on the market, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite amongst the KGR staff. While it’s technically a low cost unit aimed at those who want to record at home, it has proven its worth as a cost effective unit that can deliver pro level results.

The Universal Audio Volt 2 (full review here) is a powerhouse of an interface. Despite its small size, it offers a phenomenal feature set and fantastic recording quality that really defies its price tag.

Construction wise, the Volt 2 was rock solid. It had a sturdy all metal housing that should be able to take a fair amount of abuse should you choose to throw it in a gig bag or backpack. If you do decide to leave it on the desktop, you’ll be pleased to know it looks as good in person as it does in the pictures. The black and white finish really does look excellent.

It offers near zero latency performance when the direct monitoring is activated, and even when running audio through the computer, there was no delay that we were able to notice. We found the control layout to be well thought out. We were able to get recordings going without even really having to read the manual, which in our book is always a good sign.

The Volt 2 is a 2 channel model with both instrument cable and XLR input capability. Each channel has its own gain control, as well as a really clever analog vintage tube preamp option. We really liked the warmth we got with the vintage preamp activated.

If you’re looking to record a mic input, you’ll be pleased to know that it also had 48v phantom power. Another bonus was the huge suite of software that came bundled with it, too. It came with Ableton’s Live Lite DAW, as well as a range of great plugins to get started with. 

As far as headroom is concerned, it delivered flawless performance. We experienced no clipping, even with higher gain on the vintage preamp. With the vintage mode off, the cleans were absolutely pristine. 

Verdict: The Universal Audio Volt 2 was an absolute joy to use. It offered quick and easy setup and driver installation, and once it was up and running, it performed fantastically. It offered tons of headroom, excellent anti-clipping performance and distortion resistance, and near zero latency.



Also Consider
PreSonus Studio 24C 2x2

Rugged construction and fantastic AD/DA converters at an affordable price.

With this model, you're getting dual instrument/XLR inputs, phantom power, and a handy graphic clipping display for much less money than you'd think.

Product Highlights:

  • Bus-Powered USB-C Audio Interface
  • 2-in / 2-out + MIDI I/O
  • 24-bit/192kHz audio & XMAX-L preamps
  • Mac & PC Compatible
  • Zero-latency monitoring
  • Bundled with Pro Tools & other plugins

The Presonus 24c is a bus-powered low latency audio interface that connects over a USB-C to PC and MAC laptop/computers. Plus, it’s compatible with every major DAW. Construction-wise, it’s a rugged unit with a black center chassis laid with blue side panels.

The front panel features LED indications for the Input and Main, five knobs for parameter changes, and a +48V phantom power toggle button. It also hosts the two mic/instrument/line inputs that are a combination of XLR and TRS inputs.

With 24-bit recording, and an up to 192 Hz sample rate, it offers pristine audio. The XMAX-L preamps sound sharp and can handle a hot input with good headroom. They boast of an ultra-low roundtrip latency of 3ms, which is effectively zero latency.

It’s not common to have MIDI input/output at this price point, so the 24c scores on features and value there. The interface teams up with a generous software bundle that includes the Studio One Artist (limited-version DAW) + Studio Magic suite (Ableton Live Lite included). VST (fx and instrument) freebies contain some high-end choices for your production projects.

Verdict: The PreSonus Studio 24c is worthy of any home studio or desktop-format music production rig. The headroom, gain, and clear metering speaks well of the XMAX-L preamp’s capabilities. If you’re shopping for a low latency, high-performance 2 x 2 interface, Presonus offers an all-in-one solution bundled with some world-class recording software.


Also Consider
Audient iD14

A streamlined interface with ADAT expandability and excellent I/O.

Ultra high speed USB-C connectivity ensures no latency, and the simple layout makes this dual input USB interface incredibly simple to operate.

Product Highlights:

  • USB-C bus-powered audio interface
  • 10-in / 16-out
  • 24-bit/192kHz
  • 2 Audient Mic Preamps
  • 1 discrete JFET instrument input
  • 1 ADAT Input
  • Bundles with Cubase LE + VST plugin-ins

Audient’s iD-Series interfaces enjoy the status of the most popular budget-friendly units. In January ’21, Audient announced the mkII with updated features and performance markers to continue their reign of popularity in the segment. We’ll focus on the iD14 with occasional references to iD4, its modest predecessor.

The interface looks and feels premium, with ample heft when you hold it and a sturdy all-metal chassis. The gun-metal finish and sleek design are reminiscent of Apple’s space gray finishes. It’s a 10-in/6-out plug n’ play unit with low distortion and serious clarity.

Guitar players will cherish the JFET instrument inputs that replicate classic valve amps. Plus, the unit has ADAT expandability and mic preamps inspired by Audient’s ASP8024-HE Console. The preamps sound very clean with a hint of analog warmth.

Both mkII (iD4 and iD14) interfaces have a wider dynamic range (126dB), improved audio drivers, and USB3.0 connectivity. There are also improvements in output quality and recording capabilities. Plus, the iD14 mkII now has two line outputs and two headphone outputs. Luckily, they still retail for the same price.

The interface is bundled with a DAW (Cubase LE) and a bag full of VST effects and instrument plug-ins.

Verdict: Our pick is the Audient iD14 mkII, but the iD4 can be an equally viable addition to a home recording studio. They are compact, capable, and affordable. If your needs and budget allow it, the high-end Audient iD44 is also an excellent choice. Conversely, if you want a starter-bundle, you must check out the Audient EVO 4 bundle.


Best Premium Option
Universal Audio Apollo Twin

The Windows version of the highly acclaimed Thunderbolt-only processing beast.

This is a pro level interface with exceptional build quality, high-end features, and lightning fast performance.

Product Highlights:

  • USB 3.0 bus-powered audio interface
  • 2-in/6-out
  • 24-bit/192kHz audio
  • UAD DUO DSP Processing
  • Flagship Apollo circuitry & Console Software
  • MAC/PC Compatibility

As is customary, we’ll end our roundup with a premium option. It’s always good to have something to GAS over. UA’s Apollo Twin is the big cheese in the $500 to $1000 segment. It is, after all, celebrated for its ultra-low latency, real time plugin-in processing, and bags of dynamic processing.

This 2-in/6-out compact interface is housed in a sturdy perforated steel and aluminum chassis. It’s a USB-3 interface with 2mic/line/Hi-Z inputs and 2 line outs. It also features digitally controlled monitor outputs with an analog attenuator to make the most out of your bit depth.

The best part is that all the I/Os are built-in. There is no chance of cable fallout. The top panel handles the visual metering LCD, multi-function rotary knob, and associated buttons. The UAD-2 DUO DSP processing unit and Console software offer a lot of flexibility while using the controls.

It has the same circuitry as the flagship Apollo and the uncompromising preamps yield the best-in-class quality. You can track through ‘preamp emulation’ thanks to the Unison-enabled plug-ins. The interface is bundled with Classic UAD plug-ins such as Lexicon 224, Oxford EQ, AMS RMX16, and 1176LN. Some of them may be outmoded versions, but there are a lot of classic sounds for your perusal.

Verdict: Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB is the low latency audio interface to beat. Other than a potentially prohibitive cost, it’s hard to fault the interface. It’s one of the best-sounding options for Windows with the cleanest audio and near zero-latency performance. The addition of Unison technology and UA plugins make it a triple whammy for studio owners.


How To Choose the Best Low Latency Audio Interface For You

I/O: (Input / Output)

It’s important to identify your needs and buy an interface with the right amount of inputs and outputs. The ‘right amount’ is at the discretion of the user – how and what you plan to record. If you want to make Instagram videos, you can get away with a Focusrite Solo.

A songwriter may need two inputs to record an instrument and vocals simultaneously. Similarly, you need a minimum of four (ideally 8) inputs if you intend to track drums and/or record a band or ensemble.

As for outputs, two is the bare minimum requirement to connect studio monitors. More than 2 outputs are only useful if you use an extra pair of monitors or outboard gear as a part of your workflow.

Format

Most lower-line audio interfaces are available in desktop format. You’ll start noticing rack mount interfaces once you breach the mid-market segment. Rackmounts are preferred in pro studios, but they need to be screwed in. The desktop format is ideal for home studios.

Connectivity

The main options are USB (Mac/PC), Thunderbolt (Mac), Firewire (old Macs), or PCIe. Firewire is dated and inferior to Thunderbolt, so USB 2.0 and/or 3.0 connectors are ideal, which is why they are the most common option. We’ll steer clear of PCIe as they connect to a computer chipset and cost significantly more.

Price

Price is always a deciding factor, and for good reason. There are many components to your recording/mixing workflow that need a judicious allocation of funds. I always recommend starting with a well-thought-out spending limit to narrow down your choices.

Other features

Preamps play a crucial role in the performance and price of an audio interface. Luckily, even the most inexpensive audio interface has a good baseline quality nowadays. Tone color, however, is a horse of a different color.

MIDI in/out will allow you to interface with older keyboards with 5-pin MIDI connectors or other hardware like arpeggiators that run with a MIDI clock out to sync tempo.

DSP or Digital Signal Processing refers to the onboard DSP. It can be non-essential for a songwriter who wants to compose/arrange and it can be non-negotiable for a mixing engineer’s latency-free monitoring mixes.

Software bundled with your interface could also mean the difference between going straight to work or spending additional money to use the interface. Check to see if the bundled software covers what you need, be it a DAW or plugins (check out our favorite amp sims here).

Final Thoughts on the Best Low Latency Audio Interfaces

From tracking a live band to simple song demos, from vocal/instrument overdubs to heavy signal processing, there are vast and varying needs when it comes to audio gear. The real challenge is to reconcile the abstract quest of the “best audio interface” with the wide-ranging use cases when it comes to connecting your guitar to a computer.

Also don’t forget to check out our guide to the best home recording packages – you might find you’re better off adding a microphone and cans to your setup right off the bat.

To recap our top choices – if you’re dipping your toe, you can’t go wrong with the Mackie’s Onyx Artist, whereas for a little more you can get under 3ms latency for under $200 with the excellent sounding Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – or if you’re taking things a little more seriously, the SSL2/2+ has 1ms of latency (which is effectively imperceptable) as well as studio quality pre’s with an analog flavor – a no brainer.

Martin Holland

Growing up in rural Australia, there wasn't much to do but play guitar and stare at the red dirt. When things broke, the only person to fix them was fifty miles away, and eventually fixing gave way to building, giving me my career as a luthier. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Martin Holland has 37 posts and counting. See all posts by Martin Holland